Family history

Heartland Homeland

Joyce in DeKalb

Midway through the summer is a great time to regroup, and to return to Illinois for a visit. When I renew family ties, I enjoy and appreciate the grounded feeling of walking on the soil of my ancestors and the land of my upbringing. Fields of corn look splendid, far beyond the anticipated “knee high by the 4th of July.” Sweet corn newly arrived at the farmer’s market tastes a little like heaven.

Weather was predictably unpredictable during my stay in Illinois. My first evening there, the rain poured down in buckets. The rain gauge read five inches under a canopy of hardwood trees. Next door, the reading was closer to a half foot. Tornadoes touched down a few miles away, leaving a trail of broken and uprooted trees, some collateral building damage, and power outages for several hours.

My family was unruffled. Once the rain let up, we opened a bottle of wine, put steaks and vegetables on the grill, and enjoyed candlelight on the screened porch. The beauty of the situation was far superior to any inconvenience caused by the absence of electricity. In a small way, I felt in touch with my long ago Illinois pioneer ancestors. In spite of the hardships encountered in their newfound homeland, there was beauty in nature and a simpler way of living.

I enjoy my visits back to the Midwest. I relish seeing the rich, black soil, the beauty of the lush greenery, trees, songbirds, and lightning bugs. I enjoy my people, appreciate my family history, and blend with and relate to the hearty souls and grounded characters who live in the heartland. However, the best part is my return trip to the Rocky Mountain West, where the wide open spaces, independent spirit, and cool, dry air envelope me and welcome me back to my chosen home.

Joyce B. Lohse, 7/3/10